As a mommy blogger and co-host of a mom-centered radio show (Mom Life Yo), I tend to spend a lot of the free time in my days reflecting on my experiences with my two sons. They’re still quite young, but so many of the happenings we’ve lived through in their short lives have shaped my own.
For many of us, everything changed the moment we found out we were going to become mothers. It’s inexplicable. All I can say is something shifted within me, almost as if I had no control over it. To say I felt “maternal” doesn’t feel strong enough. This felt…intergalactic. Sound dramatic? It felt dramatic! The weight of motherhood hit me, and all of a sudden it wasn’t just about having cute little chubby-faced babies. I was responsible for feeding them the right nutrients, strapping them in the right car seat correctly, and knowing the difference in their cries in the middle of the night. Heck, I was charged with keeping them alive! That’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. Of course, this is something that we all eventually get used to, and it begins to feel as natural as breathing. I don’t think the magnitude of the situation ever decreases, though.
Hitting a rhythm with our babies is key, but life sometimes necessitates allowing close and trusted family members to care for your child for limited (or longer) amounts of time. Maybe you have to go to work, or perhaps you have plans for a dinner date with your significant other. Anything can arise that may require a child-free moment. If you’re lucky enough, you probably have an available support system in place.
For many moms, the idea that no one can take care of your child the way you can has driven wedges between family members. That, ladies, is completely avoidable. Most of the problem is completely understandable. You carried this child for nine months, and now your prerogative is to raise them the way you please. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask, right? In my opinion, you’re right. In the opinion of your perhaps know-it-all (but well meaning) mother-in-law? Maybe not so much. Here’s the truth: when you drop your kid off at their grandmother’s house, rules often vary greatly from those of your own. The kids may get to stay up later than you’d prefer. They may also get to do backflips off of the bed without consequences. For many moms, this leads to frustration and words said out of anger aimed at unsuspecting grandmas. I’ve found better ways to handle it, though.
Remember the Love
You might find it helpful to remember two things. First? If you’re dealing with a grandmother, aunt or other guardian figure, remind yourself that they raised you, your husband or maybe another family member you’re close to. They’ve done this before, successfully, and they know what they’re doing now. Second, they love your child. Immeasurably. The last thing they’d ever desire would be to see your child hurt. Their ways may be different, but the intention is pure. Get in the habit of repeating it to yourself: they raised me, they raised my husband, they’ve done this before. *deep breath*
Be Careful With Blame
It’s hard to resist blaming your mom or other family caregiver for the things that your kids are “allowed” to do at their home, and I get it. Nobody wants to be the bad guy when the kids are in play heaven doing crazy things at grandma’s right before they bring those crazy behaviors home and get reprimanded for them. My take on this might surprise you. I don’t blame my mother or anyone else for it. Instead, I have realized that my children are incredibly smart. They have figured out what they can get away with, and they sometimes use that knowledge to their advantage. I have switched my thinking to include that awareness; now my expectation rests more so on my children than the “fun grandma” watching them. I say things like, “I know you jump on the couch at Nana’s, that’s fine. At home, we don’t do that. Have a seat.” They understand the parameters, and we’re all happy. Consider taking that approach, and I’m willing to bet your stress levels will decrease.
Know Your Non-negotiable Necessities
This one is the most important. In my experience, grandmothers, aunts and other babysitters are sometimes woeful to accept everything you request, simply because the list is a mile long. It’s overwhelming and leaves no room for basic adult decision-making. Decide on the three most important issues to you, and make it clear that they are not up for debate. Go into the agreement saying, “It’s fine if the kids eat this for dinner, or that they choose their own clothes when you go out, but I’d really like it if you would make sure these three things happened.”
My mom kept my kids while my ex-husband and I were sleep training. If you’ve ever done that, you know every single night is crucial to the success of the whole operation. I would say things like, “I need you to put him in this crib to sleep, don’t go in the room if he cries, and only lay him on his back.” She was always much more willing to go along with the program if I didn’t place restrictions on a lot of other things.
Leaving your baby with anyone else is always hard. Even the ones you love and trust might not do things exactly as you do, but it’s important to remember that if your children are safe, loved and happy, they’re in good hands.